Movie review by
Pam Gelman, Common Sense Media
Willow Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Magic-filled fantasy adventure with a few battle scenes.
  • PG
  • 1988
  • 126 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 23 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The movie intends to entertain, not educate. 

Positive Messages

The movie is filled with positive messages about love, family, the power of good over evil, sacrifice for the greater good, and the dangers of judging a book by its cover. Willow's journey also underscores the value of perseverance, the struggle for good, and doing the right thing in the face of great odds.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Willow demonstrates courage, integrity, perseverance, and teamwork.

Violence & Scariness

Sword fighting, hand-to-hand combat, punching, magical battles. One scene shows innocent villagers -- including children -- running in fear from soldiers. A wildebeest attacks the midwife who saved the princess baby, and it's assumed she dies, but nothing is shown. In the final battle a troll turns into a bloody, grotesque, two-headed monster. A man walks in on his wife talking to Madmartigan, who is dressed like a woman; the man then gropes at the breast of "the woman." Some blood. 

Sexy Stuff

Some romantic kissing. One scene hints that Madmartigan was involved with another man's wife. A love potion makes Madmartigan spout wildly romantic phrases at a beautiful woman. A man gropes at the breast of one of the lead characters who is disguised as a woman


Some insults, especially "peck," which refers to Willow's species of little people. Once: "jackass." Sexual innuendo, character talks of how he's "still got it where it counts." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Raucous drunken behavior in a pub -- pushing and shoving, breaking glasses, near-fights. One of the characters falls into a vat of beer and then walks and speaks in a drunk manner into the next scene. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Willow is a wonderful fantasy adventure with lots of intense scenes of battle and conflict, which are often lightened with humor. Expect an evil queen who yells and threatens to kill a baby, plus some scary wildebeests and soldiers who storm a village of innocents -- including kids -- but leave before anyone is seriously hurt. Some battles result in apparent deaths with a little blood, but nothing is lingered on or explicit. A couple monsters are pretty creepy and put beloved characters in peril. In one scene a man gropes at the breast of one of the lead characters who is disguised as a woman. There is some romantic kissing and a hint of infidelity. Also, there is some puerile humor, including use of the word "pee pee," a baby vomiting in a man's face, and gags involving animal feces. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPiney Woods January 9, 2016

Boring +uncalled for sexy stuff+weirdo occult ritual stuff=just watch Lord of the Rings or some Studio Ghibli again

I saw this in the theaters when it came out; that's been a few years so I'd mostly forgotten what it was about. After we saw Warwick Davis in Prince C... Continue reading
Adult Written byProfessorDolan June 23, 2012

Safe family viewing except for one scene

In one scene, a woman's husband grabs what he thinks is the breast of his wife's sister. That it's really a melon, not a breast, and a man, not... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byjohnthemon February 25, 2011

Not for 8 year olds, common sense media is inconsistent

They gave Empire Strikes Back an 11+ but this one an 8+? This is way darker/scarier/more violent/more sexual than Empire. Saw this at age 12 and it still was pr... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bylydia129 June 16, 2018

Too Scary for Young Children

My mom had fond memories of this movie, so my nine-year-old brother and I watched it with her. While it was a good movie, there was a lot of violence and the... Continue reading

What's the story?

WILLOW (Warwick Davis) is a Nelwyn, a dwarf-like person, who is a farmer and aspiring sorcerer. His children find a baby, a special princess who is the chosen one to bring down the reign of terror by the magical evil queen. The Nelwyn community is frightened by this baby, a Daikini or big person, and commands Willow to return the baby to its kind. The first Nelwyn met is a hooligan named Madmartigan (Val Kilmer). Willow has bonded with the baby and does not trust Madmartigan. These two pair up to save the baby, meeting forest fairies and a kind sorceress along the way. Madmartigan receives a dose of fairy powder, causing him to fall in love with Sorsha, daughter to the evil queen. The powder wears off, but the affection doesn't. In the end, good triumphs over evil; Willow is a hero; and the baby princess is left in the loving arms of Sorsha and Madmartigan.

Is it any good?

For today's Harry Potter generation, a viewing of this movie will surely be of interest. There's no more violence in this film than a child sees in Harry Potter or Star Wars -- in fact, there's probably less. Directed by Ron Howard and written by George Lucas, it's a great film for kids interested in fantasy.

The adventure is easy to follow and full of school-age humor, and two forest fairies provide comedy with their slapstick, strange voices, and snappy one-liners. Lucas' fantasy has interesting-looking characters and villages, gothic castles, and, most of all, magic. There are no big surprises; we know who's good and who's evil. Though parents may want to fast-forward through the fight scenes, Willow is an excellent choice to give young kids a taste of fantasy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the characters' choices in Willow . Why did the queen want to kill the baby princess? Why was Willow reluctant to take the baby into his home? Why did Madmartigan help Willow and the baby? What do these choices say about the movie's messages?

  • Talk about the humor in this movie. How do jokes and silly pratfalls lessen the intensity of violence or peril?

  • What parts of the movie are created by actors, and what parts are created by computer effects? How can you tell?

  • How do the characters in Willow demonstrate perseverance and teamwork? What about courage and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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